Hair has been a historically important part of a woman’s identity, mainly due to its simultaneously personal and public nature. Women with natural and luxurious locks have been glorified in several forms, from Rapunzel to Rachel Green.
It could, therefore, be devastating for women to notice a thinning spot on their scalp. Although hair loss is quite a normal occurrence in both aging men and women, any sign of balding before the age of 30 stirs unease. Women are affected by this condition on an emotional level. In fact, from bad hair days and frizziness to dryness and graying, hair that projects anything less than the image of health could seriously affect their self-esteem.
To understand how hair closely affects how women perceive and carry themselves in social circles, let’s first examine what these locks signify on various levels. Much more than being voluminous strands growing out of one’s head, hair for women symbolized (and continues to symbolize) several things throughout history.
A Symbol of Traditional Femininity, Beauty, and Purity
Consider Lady Godiva, a noblewoman of Old English lore. She was made to ride her horse naked through the streets with only her long hair draped over her body after she challenged the authorities (her husband) for abusing their tenant-farmers.
Lady Godiva’s actions led to the people of Coventry being freed from an oppressive taxation policy. Her bravery her cause for the people triumph. Artists love to depict her in her trial as a wondrous beauty with long, flowing hair that protected her purity.
A Symbol of One’s Commitment to a Cause
It wasn’t only the act of growing a long, rich mane that empowered women. The opposite was also true. As women have been strongly associated throughout history with a long mane of hair, when they set out to act out a role not traditionally prescribe to their sex, they cut it off. The act not only signified their refusal to be limited by their societal role, but it symbolized the seriousness of their promise.
Despite the severe punishment for deviating from their roles as mothers and caretakers, it happened all over the world and throughout history. The animated film Mulan is one such recent example. A scene portrays the titular character cutting off her hair with her father’s sword so she could take his place in the army. Her parting with this significant part of her femininity denotes her strong commitment and belief in her cause.
A Symbol of One’s Elevated Social Status
The notion of long hair as a status symbol persists throughout history, and it makes quite a bit of sense. Long hair required significant time and resources to maintain; a woman who sported such a style, therefore, non-verbally declared that they had the means to spend on such an extravagance. Ancient Egyptian women shaved their heads to avoid head lice, but they invested heavily on elaborate hair pieces to denote their elevated social status.
Furthermore, women’s hairstyles during the Victorian era of England often required a dedicated lady’s maid to set it properly. Only noblewomen had the luxury to have their hair styled this way.
These days, having beautifully-styled and cared-for hair indicates that a woman can see to it that her needs are met. By keeping her locks healthy and looking good consistently, she can visually demonstrate how she pays proper attention to her appearance and, in turn, to her life’s priorities.
The rich history and cultural significance of a woman’s full head of healthy hair make hair loss devastating for many women. Millions of American women, however, find themselves losing their hair due to a variety of factors like age, genes, and the notorious alopecia areata — a condition where bald spots appear on the scalp. Considering the value women put into caring for their precious hair, it pays to learn about the common causes of this dreaded condition.
Looking to older relatives — mothers, aunts, and grandmothers — can clue women in on their chances of developing a thinning scalp. Do their scalps have varying hair follicle sizes, from thick ones to much thinner ones? Then it’s likely that you’ll have significantly thinner hair in the future. Irregular hair follicle size is considered a sign of pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia. The condition usually occurs in women in their late 50s or 60s. It can, however, also manifest as early as a woman’s teenage years.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Losing one’s hair can also reflect the state of one’s health. If hair follicles are consistent in size or if hair loss occurs suddenly (ruling out alopecia), an underlying medical condition might be the culprit. Some of the most common hair loss initiators are thyroid disorders, anemia, pregnancy, and autoimmune diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Stress, surgery, and other physical trauma can also be factors for women who experience sudden episodes of hair loss.
Other times, thinning hair is triggered by extreme hair styling choices like cornrows or tight braids. Common styling agents like hair dyes, blow dryers, flat irons, and chemical treatments can damage and break the hair when applied with little regard for the hair’s needed recovery time, in fact. Sometimes what is thought to be an improvement to tresses, perhaps because of a new trend or cultural norm, might be causing it harm.
Whatever the cause may be, hair loss is a trying time for women. The condition often results in psychological stress, especially considering the huge role hair plays in the building of self-esteem and body image.
Plenty of hair loss treatments offer solutions that promise to fill the gaps in scalps. But it could just be as disappointing, either because it’s too high-maintenance or too unnatural-looking. Other treatments even fail at keeping up with the byproducts of daily activities, getting ruined by simple things like sweat and rain.
Fortunately, it is not a hopeless cause. Some non-surgical hair restoration systems have proven their effectiveness in creating systems that are virtually indistinguishable from natural hair. That’s because these methods use 100% natural hair to create a replacement that integrates seamlessly with a woman’s existing hair, adding volume to thinning areas or covering up balding spots entirely. These replacement systems have also been proven to be able to withstand the demands of active lifestyles. Sweating, swimming, showering, and even styling do not reduce its effectiveness at all.
Hair loss doesn’t need to be the cause of a woman’s low self-worth. With the help of a healthy lifestyle and advanced, non-invasive treatments, women can look and feel beautiful, confident, and empowered.